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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Jewish barber's Closing Address

This fall, I'm teaching "Politics Through Film" for the first time (good seats are still available). My colleague who used to teach the course retired and I will focus the course on global politics.

While I'll be loading up on some of my favorite war movies, I'm also looking for a few great comedies to add -- especially those comedies that make a distinct political point.

Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" seems like a prime candidate.

Chaplin plays multiple roles in the film, including an ordinary Jewish Barber and the title character. The barber is eventually taken for the dictator and has an opportunity at the end of the film to give a speech that would have been delivered by the dictator. I'd encourage you to read the entire speech, but I'm going to include a couple of excerpts. This is the beginning:
I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an Emperor - that's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible -- Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another; human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there's room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful.

But we have lost the way.
And this is towards the end:
Let us all unite!! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people!! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise!! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.
Readers: any film suggestions? I already have a pretty good list and may discuss the ones I select over the next few months.

Potential students: this is going to be a fun course and you will definitely see some great movies that may not be familiar to you. I'm really looking forward to the class and have no plans to deliver any lectures. Students will write some film criticism, but the workload should not be too onerous.

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